VANCOUVER, B.C. – There's something about playing against the LA Galaxy that brings out the best in Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Russell Teibert. And as the 'Caps prepare to host the Western Conference giants at BC Place this weekend, the 21-year-old Canadian international will be hoping for more of the same.
Teibert had perhaps his most influential match as a Whitecap last season when he came off the bench to bag a brace in a 3-1 victory over the Galaxy in mid-May. Many have described the game as Teibert's “coming out” party, as he scored two well-taken goals while playing as a right winger.
The Niagara Falls, Ontario native played a much different role for his side last weekend in a 1-0 loss to the Galaxy, lining up as a defensive midfielder alongside Gershon Koffie in a 4-2-3-1. Using his positional awareness and seemingly endless endurance, Teibert stifled many of the home side's forward forays – his performance earning him the club sponsor's Man of the Match award.
“It felt good out there,” Teibert said of last weekend's outing. “It felt good playing alongside Koffie in the middle of the field. ... All in all, I think it was a decent performance by us but we just didn't finish our chances and be clinical in their side of the pitch.”
Teibert spoke of relishing the chance to once again play against Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan in this weekend's rematch in Vancouver (7 pm ET, TSN in Canada/MLS Live in US), and while acknowledging his strong individual performance, touched on Keane's game-winning tap-in.
“That was our role,” Teibert said of his defensive midfield partnership with Koffie. “To really be in front of Keane and Donovan, and try to shut down the space for them, because they do play so well off each other. It wasn't necessarily to get in their heads, but that's the way it worked out.
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“It was working well, but then again, Keane comes down and is really clinical and gets a goal.”
Now it's about putting last weekend's narrow loss in the rearview mirror and ensuring the 'Caps get back to winning ways – although once again the versatile Teibert could see himself shuffled around as defensive midfielder Matias Laba returns from suspension.
“We all know how good Matty's been for us in the first five games of the season,” Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson said this week. “He's been absolutely fantastic and he's a vital part of our team moving forward. ... It will be a tough decision but I'm better off having those decisions to make.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.